Here’s three observations from the Everett Silvertips’ 6-1 victory over the Tri-City Americans in Game 1 of their first-round WHL playoff series Friday night at Angel of the Winds Arena:
1) Everett utterly dominates — and it’s eventually reflected in the score.
This game was pretty much one-way traffic, and Everett was the team with the green light.
Everett had the heavy edge on the shot clock, outshooting Tri-City 48-22. The difference was even greater when it came to quality scoring chances, as I had the Tips with 39 chances versus just eight for the Americans, and that difference was an astounding 28-3 through the first two periods.
Yet Everett went into the third period leading just 1-0. This is not a new development for the Tips. Everett regularly outshot its opponents in the second half of the season, but that didn’t necessarily translate into goals. For a long time it was an issue again Friday, as the Tips led just 3-1 with 2 minutes, 40 seconds remaining before scoring an empty netter and two more after Tri-City waved the white flag. So while the final score was every bit indicative of the one-sided nature of the game, there’s still concerns about Everett’s ability to convert chances into goals.
The good news for Everett is the Tips got goals from guys like Max Patterson and Zack Andrusiak, who Everett needs offense from to progress through this series and deep the playoffs.
2) The Tips’ lines seemed to solidify.
A year ago Everett was as set as can be with its lines heading into the playoffs. Everyone knew the lines of Matt Fonteyne, Patrick Bajkov and Sean Richards and Riley Sutter, Garrett Pilon and Connor Dewar were going to start together, stay together throughout the game, and play a lot of minutes. When a third line was called upon, it was going to be the trio of Reece Vitelli, Bryce Kindopp and Martin Fasko-Rudas. That made for a lot of certainty, and the players entered the postseason having already developed good chemistry.
This season was a different story. Tips coach Dennis Williams, in part because of Sutter’s injury that’s kept him out of the lineup since December, has juggled his lines constantly, with trios changing from period to period and shift to shift. It meant there was no certainty about who would play together in Game 1, or whether the lines that started the game together would be the same that finished it.
But after a few early blips, Everett’s lines were pretty much constant Friday. Dewar and Kindopp were joined by Fasko-Rudas, while Patterson, Andrusiak and Robbie Holmes rounded out the top six. When the third line was called upon it was Vitelli, Dawson Butt and Lucas Cullen. They all stuck together and played well.
It will be a good sign for Everett if the Tips can maintain that consistency.
3) Where did Connor Dewar disappear to?
A big part of the reason why Everett dominated the game was the play of its captain. Dewar dominated the puck in the offensive zone, and he scored the game’s first two goals, including the all-important short-hander 6:54 into the third period that finally gave the Tips a two-goal cushion. He was deservingly named the game’s first star. Yet when he was announced, he never emerged from the tunnel.
I don’t think Dewar took a shift after he scored the short-handed goal. On the goal he had a partial breakaway, and as he shot he was knocked down by Tri-City defenseman Aaron Hyman and crashed into Americans goaltender Beck Warm, knocking the goal off its pegs. Dewar seemed fine afterwards, but when his line came out again it was Kindopp who took the faceoff at center, and Dewar remained on the bench. Later in the period he left the bench and didn’t return. Williams said after the game that Dewar was just given a rest and that it was nothing that should cause any problems.
But this is the playoffs, and teams no longer have to disclose any injury information, so we won’t actually know if Dewar can play in Saturday’s Game 2 until the lineups are announced about 90 minutes before the game. Dewar was the team’s leading scorer during the regular season and was named the team’s MVP, so obviously it would be a game changer if he was unavailable.